Martha Stewart Masters the Art of Casual Entertaining

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Artwork by Samantha Bolton for Yahoo Food

Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week is Martha Stewart’s Appetizers: 200 Recipes for Dips, Spreads, Snacks, Small Plates, and Other Delicious Hors d’Oeuvres, Plus 30 Cocktails, the lifestyle expert’s take on casual entertaining.

When it comes to entertaining, no one comes within miles of Martha Stewart’s expertise. Her first book, Entertaining, was published in 1982, and in the three decades since, she’s shared her cooking and hosting advice on television and radio, in her Martha Stewart Living magazine, and in numerous party-focused cookbooks, including 1984’s Hors d’Oeuvres and 1999’s Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook.

In her latest book, Martha Stewart’s Appetizers, Stewart embraces what she calls the “casualness” of modern entertaining. For anyone intimidated by the seeming perfectionism that is a Stewart trademark, this is welcome news. Better still: Stewart’s stated goal is for everything to be easy to understand and a joy to prepare.

“I encourage you to try all of the recipes as you maneuver your way through a year of celebrations, dinners, rites of passage, and other gatherings with friends and family,” Stewart writes in the book’s forward.

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Shrimp Cocktail with Three Sauces. (Photo: David Malosh)

In this spirit, Stewart opens with her “Golden Rules for Hosting a Party.” These are big-picture ideas, designed to take the stress out of entertaining. And while tips about streamlining your menu and making lists may seem simple or old hat, they’re “golden rules” for a reason — they really are the secrets to throwing a good party and enjoying it.

In the party planning section, Stewart dives into the nitty-gritty, offering useful strategies for choosing the right recipes and how to get everything done on time. Dishes that can be prepped in advance are great, but Stewart goes a step further, urging her readers to think about burner and oven space. You’ll also find wisdom on how much food to serve and pre-party shopping pointers.

The rest of the book is devoted to recipes, with more than 200 options reflecting today’s tastes. There are modern combinations like Burrata with Hot Pickled Peppers and Miso-Honey Wings, as well as retro favorites like Cheese Balls, Hot Artichoke Dip, and Pigs in Blankets. To help with menu planning, many of the recipes suggest what to serve with them. And there are often make-ahead instructions, which reinforces Stewart’s advice to do as much as possible ahead of time, and will be especially helpful for newbie hosts.

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Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip. (Photo: David Galosh)

The Snacks chapter focuses on “crunchy, salty, tasty nibbles for casual get-togethers.” Most require minimal prep and many can be thrown together with pantry staples. Think Broiled Feta, Seasoned Potato Chips, and Roasted Spiced Chickpeas.

Recipes in the Starters and Small Plates chapters are slightly more elaborate and require a bit more work. You’ll find Fried Sweet-Potato Ravioli, Caramelized Onion and Bacon Dip, and Pull-Apart Lobster Rolls. Moving away from the casual ethos of the rest of the book, the Stylish Bites chapter is aimed at festive occasions. “Now is the time to splurge on a few luxurious ingredients and to fuss,” says Stewart. This means Smoked Salmon on Rye Canapés, Egg-and-Caviar Dip, and Mini Crab Cakes.

To partner will all that food, the Sips chapter features creative cocktails like Lemon Ouzo-Ade, Gin-and-Grapefruit Fizzes, and Sour Cherry Mojitos, plus Mint Juleps, Pimm’s Cups, and other classics. And don’t worry about getting stuck behind the bar. “It’s great fun,” writes Stewart, “to set out all the components and do the mixing while you mingle.”

Visit Yahoo Food throughout the week for recipes from Martha Stewart’s Appetizers.

Check out other cookbooks from Yahoo Food’s Cookbook of the Week:

Oh, What a Treat! by Sandra Denneler

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Chinatown Kitchen by Lizzie Mabbott